The Old Man And The Tee

Golf.jpgThanks to reader Kevin for this Josh Sens profile of Sandy Tatum in San Francisco Magazine, which gets into the politics behind the Harding Park redo as well as the chances of a Sharp Park restoration. A few highlights, though the entire piece is worth your time:

This vision has made Tatum a contentious figure. Some have hailed him as a selfless champion of public good. “The guy gets such a bad rap,” says Tom Hsieh, a San Francisco political consultant who leases Gleneagles from the city and operates the nine-hole course. “He could be out enjoying himself at Cypress Point. Instead, he’s totally committed to doing what he thinks is right for the city.” But Matt Smith, a columnist with the SF Weekly, has cast Tatum as a kind of robber baron, out to pluck from city coffers to provide for fat-cat friends. In this portrayal, golf takes shape as a hobby restricted to the upper crust, unworthy of extensive public investment, and Tatum as an enemy of the Everyman. Suspicion of Tatum is shared, though for different reasons, by some hard-core local golfers, who cherish outings on their low-priced munis, regardless of the shoddy conditions, and don’t see the need for manicured fairways if it means coughing up more green.
The political consensus is that the status quo isn’t working. But what, exactly, should be done? Whether or not Tatum has the right answers for San Francisco—the Board of Supervisors and the Recreation and Parks commissioners will decide that—he remains the only party to put forth a detailed plan.

“In the case of Harding,” Tatum says, “I didn’t see any way of salvaging the place other than the way that was ultimately taken. It’s a San Francisco asset, and something needed to be done. I can certainly understand the frustrations. But if it could have been done differently—and in a realistic fashion—boy, I wish someone had been there at the time to tell me.”

Now, with Sharp and Lincoln deteriorating, the city is again at a crossroads, and Tatum has again weighed in. His suggestion, which echoes the findings of a 179-page report by the National Golf Foundation (a study paid for with private donations raised by Tatum), is that the city lease its courses to a nonprofit organization. The nonprofit (and Tatum has established just such an organization for this purpose), in turn, would hire private companies to make improvements (new drainage systems, say) and run the courses day to day. It’s an arrangement not unlike the one the city has with the San Francisco Zoo. If such steps aren’t taken, the report concludes, the rising debt and declining conditions of the munis will at some point in the unspecified future cause both Lincoln and Sharp to simply fade away. The city’s own analysis, presented to supervisors in April, confirms that the courses will run deeper in the red if nothing is done.